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Nassau County Jail Rule 36 (hereinafter NCJR 36) … cont

‘There are certain minimum standards below which today’s society cannot sink in its treatment of those of its members who must, for one reason or another, be confined in jails and prisons.’ If convicted persons do not pass beyond the reach of constitutional guarantees upon crossing the prison threshold, then pre-trial detainees must retain rights of even broader scope. Among the rights retained are the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment is made binding upon the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, since no punishment can be reconciled with the presumption of innocence, there is a certain incongruity in discussing the treatment accorded pre-trial detainees in terms of cruel and unusual punishment. Nevertheless, inasmuch as ‘the basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man.’ The rules evolved under that amendment provide a standard against which to measure the treatment of pre-trial detainees. The arrest was made for sex crimes.

Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that ‘No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ This guarantee requires that those similarly situated be classified and treated similarly and that both the classification and treatment be rationally related to a legitimate state interest. The same state interest underlies the classification and treatment of pre-trial detainees and those released on bail; to wit, securing their attendance at trial. Consequently, any restraint imposed upon the pre-trial detainee in excess of those imposed upon individuals free on bail must be justified by a compelling necessity and must constitute the least restrictive method of achieving the legitimate state purpose. The simple fact of confinement, of course, entails some loss of liberty in excess of that suffered by an individual released on bail which is nonetheless permissible.

The rights retained by pre-trial detainees, both those already discussed and others not mentioned, may be conveniently summarized by simply noting that the pre-trial detainee is entitled to due process of law. ‘Due process of law is a summarized constitutional guarantee of respect for those personal immunities are ‘so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental’, or are ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. Restraints imposed upon pre-trial detainees in excess of those reasonably related to the purpose and fact of his confinement constitute a deprivation of due process.

Thus, one detained in lieu of bail before trial may be subjected to only such restraints as are reasonably related to assuring his attendance at trial. However, it does not follow that every restraint imposed equally upon the pre-trial detainee and the convicted prisoner is a violation of the detainee’s rights. That convicted prisoners are subject to punitive or rehabilitative measures does not mean that every rule or regulation applicable to them serves a punitive or rehabilitative purpose. Institutional life necessarily entails rules and regulations designed to promote order, health, safety and security. Such rules may be applied equally to pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners without transgressing constitutional limitations. Thus, it is of no moment that pre-trial detainees and convicted prisoners confined to the Nassau County Jail must use the same library and canteen (at different times), wear the same uniforms occupy cells similarly appointed, share the same TV time schedules, be treated by the same physicians, rise and retire at the same hours or attend the same educational classes (at their own option). As applied to convicted prisoners, none of these conditions appears to serve a punitive or rehabilitative purpose such as would prevent their equal application to pre-trial detainees.

All this is not to say that the conditions under which pre-trial detainees are confined in Nassau County should not continue to be reviewed. Official regulations of correspondence by convicted prisoners and by pre-trial detainees is permissible where justified. It has been suggested that the limitations on length and permissible addresses as well as the requirement that letters be written on prison stationery appear to be excessively restrictive, at least as applied to those who are willing to obtain their own stationery and pay the postage. Similarly, the visitation restrictions have been criticized. Additionally, the right to deprive a pre-trial detainee of visiting privileges as a disciplinary measure has been questioned.

It cannot be said that the overall conditions under which the criminal defendant is confined constitute such an unreasonable encroachment on protected freedoms as to render the detention unconstitutional or otherwise illegal. To paraphrase Procurer, here the regulations and practices in question further an important or substantial governmental interest and the limitation of the defendant’s freedoms is no greater than is necessary or essential to the protection of the particular governmental interest involved.

Accordingly, the court held that the application for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.

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